By Mary Jane Leach
TROY — The Albany Symphony and Albany Pro Music, two stalwarts of the Capital District music scene, combined forces Saturday night in a thoughtful and well executed concert to a full house of enthusiastic and appreciative concert goers.
When evaluating a musical composition, it’s always a pleasure to notice recurring motifs or ideas. It’s even nicer when these concepts can be extended to an entire concert program, which this concert fulfilled. In this case it was the musical line, or thread (chain). It’s also interesting to see how a decision on one piece can affect the rest of the program. I had been wondering how the ASO would deal with the instrumentation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Magnificat,” the last piece of the night, and was relieved to see that it had streamlined the string section, which was then reflected in the rest of the program.
The first piece on the concert was Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Symphony No. 48,” which began with a flourish of brass and tympani, as did the Bach later on. By streamlining the strings, it allowed the pairs of wind instruments (oboes, French horns, and trumpets) to shine, as well as creating a more transparent texture that allowed the audience to hear what was happening. Haydn, like Bach, used a pair of oboes in delicious writing, creating melodies or supporting harmonies, using “dissonance” chains, where the oboes alternate the notes of a melody, or descending line, while sustaining the “dissonant” note. These lines create a kind of unifying thread throughout the piece, stitching the piece together.
The second piece on the program, “Fern Hill,” was written by John Corigliano at the tender age of twenty-two, using text by Dylan Thomas. It featured the mezzo-soprano Katherine Growdon, whose voice fit the piece wonderfully. It was also the first appearance of the Albany Pro Musica, which made its entrance softly and sounded great, not an easy task. The piece was pastoral and liquid, with undercurrents of sound passing by. At the end, when the chorus sang “Though I sang in my chains like the sea,” there was a very nice interlocking chain of notes that tied into the technique of the other two pieces.
After intermission came Bach’s “Magnificat.” The soloists all performed admirably, as did the chorus. A special shout out to the singers – many non-singers probably don’t realize how singer-unfriendly Bach can be – his vocal lines are full of awkward jumps, and all of the singers on this program navigated these obstacles admirably, maintaining a fluid musical line. A wonderful concert on all fronts.
Mary Jane Leach is a freelance write and composer/performer.
Albany Symphony Orchestra and Albany Pro Musica
When: 7:30pm Saturday
Where: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
Length: 1 hour and forty-five minutes, with one intermission